Dr. Blenton, a psychiatrist, said, to a patient’s surprise, that he actually studied the Bible every day. “It is the greatest textbook on human behaviour ever put together. If enough people studied it, absorbed it, and began to live by it, most psychiatrists would be unemployed.”
As an example, he spoke about the parable of the Prodigal Son, and he said that if people really believed the core of that story, namely, that God’s loving forgiveness is infinitely greater than any mistake we can make, all of his patients, paralysed with guilt feelings, would walk away free and healed.
- This parable should be called “The Parable of the Forgiving Father”.
- Jesus invites us to come home, where a big hug awaits - even if our faces are covered with pigs’ food.
- taken from “150 More Stories for Preachers and Teachers” by Jack McArdle
Luke 15:1-3, 11-32
The tax collectors and the sinners were all seeking the company of Jesus to hear what he had to say, and the Pharisees and the scribes complained. “This man,” they said, “welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So he spoke this parable to them:
“A man had two sons. The young said to his father, ‘Father, let me have the share of the estate that would come to me.’ So the father divided the property between them. A few days later, the younger son got together everything he had and left for a distant country where he squandered his money on a life of debauchery.
“When he had spent it all, that country experienced a severe famine, and now he began to feel the pinch, so he hired himself out to one of the local inhabitants who put him on his farm to feed the pigs. And he would willingly have filled his belly with the husks the pigs were eating but no one offered him anything. Then he came to his senses and said, ‘How many of my father’s paid servants have more food than they want, and here am I dying of hunger! I will leave this place and go to my father and say: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as one of your paid servants.’ So he left the place and went back to his father.
“While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity. He ran to the boy, clasped him in his arms and kissed him tenderly. Then his son said, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the calf we have been fattening, and kill it; we are going to have a feast, a celebration, because this son of mine was dead and has come back to life; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
‘Now the elder son was out in the fields, and on his way back, as he drew near the house, he could hear music and dancing. Calling one of the servants he asked what it was all about. ‘Your brother has come,’ replied the servant, ‘and your father has killed the calf he had fattened because he has got him back safe and sound.’ He was angry then and refused to go in, and his father came out to plead with him; but he answered his father, ‘Look, all these years I have slaved for you and never once disobeyed your orders, yet you never offered me so much as a kid for me to celebrate with my friends. But for this son of yours, when he comes back after swallowing up your property - he and his women - you kill the calf we had been fattening.’
“The father said, ‘My son, you are with me always and all I have is yours. But it is only right we should celebrate and rejoice, because your brother here was dead and ahs come to life; he was lost and is found.’”
Today’s gospel reading is the second time that I’m going to share on the Parable of the Prodigal Son in the past two weeks. In my last reflection, the emphasis was on the elder son. In today’s reflection, the emphasis is on the younger son.
What is striking about the younger son in this parable is that if we read closely, Jesus never says that the younger son repented of his sins. He was starving in another land, and then for purely reasons for personal gain, he decided to come back to his father who he knew would feed him, if not as a son, then at least as a servant. If there’s one thing that the younger son knew about his father, it was that his father was generous. He was going to count on this generosity to get food.
This was not new to the younger son. It’s not something that was revealed to him as he suffered hunger. This was something that he knew all along. Knowing all along that his father was generous, the younger son had the audacity to ask for his share of the inheritance even before his father had died. He knew that his father, because of his generosity, would not refuse him this request.
When he comes back, he has already planned what to say to his father when he met him. Reading his words, we can see that he didn’t have a change of heart, just a change of mind. Even when his father ran out to meet him, the younger son still didn’t have a change of heart, for the words he recited were no different from what he had prepared.
But the wonderful thing about it is that it didn’t matter to the father for what reason his younger son had returned. The important thing was that his lost son was now found.
The elder brother is another strange fellow. All the time he’s been with his father, all the time he’s been physically close to his father, and he’s never learned how to be generous like his father. He can’t even see that his father is generous, and he gets angry with his father for being so generous to the point of being wasteful.
“Look at him,” the elder brother seems to say about his sibling. “He’s just back to get food from you. He doesn’t even have a change of heart. He should at least be sorry for what he has done, but nooo, he isn’t. How can you waste your resources on him?”
But before we point fingers, let us remember that as Catholics, very often we take the same attitude. How often have we said that the one condition required for the forgiveness of sins is a repentant heart? A repentant heart is not what earns us God’s forgiveness. God is so generous with his grace and mercy that he pours it out on anyone who comes near to him, regardless of the reason.
It is because God has already forgiven us that is why we have the grace to be repentant, not the other way around. Today, we learn from the younger son a valuable lesson. If there is one thing that we can bet on, bet on the generosity of God. We will always have a windfall when we place our hopes in the generosity of God.
Dear Lord, help us to be more like the younger son in placing our hopes in your generosity. Help us to return to you, and help us not to point fingers at others when we see that they are less repentant than we think they should be, for we too are in great need of your mercy and grace. Amen.
Give Thanks to the Lord for: His overflowing generosity.
You Should Also Check Out This Post:
- Sunday, July 1 - Are you free to say ‘No’?
- Saturday, June 30 - Hospitality
- Friday, June 29 - Keeping the faith
- Wednesday, June 27 - The golden rule of truth
- Question: What’s the connection between pre-marital sex and adultery?